Schools needs budget solutions for big deficits

Posted at 11:23 PM, Mar 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-06 23:23:53-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)--Mayor Dwight C. Jones says he want to build a strong educational system for Richmond Public schools. Yet the $24 million deficit that looms will have to be first overcome.

“We're not going to allow the children to suffer because of the shortfall,” said Jones. "The money would have to come from the city budget.”

And that could mean cutting city services that you depend on every day.

"If I were a responsible lawmaker, I would want to make sure I'd look at all of the options that were on the table,” said Ann Reavey.

Mayor Jones appointed a task force to look for savings, after he says school board members failed to deliver a budget without any potential cuts.  Budget cuts that Dr. Yvonne Brandon revealed earlier this year to close the gap.

The Mayor tapped City Council President Kathy Graziano to work on the task force.  She tells us this is the largest budget she’s seen in her eight years on City council.

We wanted to know how they plan to come up with the cash without raising taxes or laying off employees.

"I would hope that we won't have to cut core services,” said City Council President Kathy Graziano.

Graziano says they're waiting to see how much money schools will get from the state.

"In past years, we have said, oh, we can cut here and then we found out that the ramifications are disastrous,” said Graziano.  “And so, we've had to pull back on those cuts.”

“And so having some experts help us go through this is really going to be beneficial,” she said.

"I think a lot of this is election year scare tactics."

Paul Goldman, long-time political strategist, believes politics is getting in the way of education.

"Everybody runs, criticizes: ‘We're spending too much money.’” “And then, when they get in, they wind up increasing their staff, forming more committees and nothing changes,” he said.

The Mayor presented his full budget proposal to City Council late Tuesday afternoon.  It calls for money to turn Public Housing into Mixed Income Developments.  The Mayor is also proposing to raise the amount of money city residents pay for water and sewer, by a few dollars each month.

City Council will approve the budget in May.  The first Public hearing on the biennial budget takes place on April 10.